Meet the young woman leading anti-corruption efforts in Slovakia

Zuzana Hlávková, age 27, is a whistleblower who exposed misuses in media campaigns for the Slovak EU Presidency.  She has just been recognized for bravery and civil activism.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
Meet the young woman leading anti-corruption efforts in Slovakia - NewsMavens
Slovak and EU flags. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

In 2015, Hlávková was an expert at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) involved with cultural campaigns and events. Together with colleague Pavol Szalai they realized that the media campaigns for the Slovak EU Presidency were not executed transparently and cost too much.

At the beginning of 2016, they left the ministry and got in touch with Transparency International Slovakia. Later, on a blog, they published a testimony and an in-depth analysis of the alleged corruption they witnessed at the ministry. Hlávková was the first person who went public, Szalai followed her.

This is how Hlávková became a role model for young people who want to change Slovakia. After her studies in Great Britain, she returned home to work for her country. Despite considerable disillusionment at the ministry, she is determined to help build a better Slovakia. Along with her ex-colleague Szalay, she has launched a project aimed at supporting whistleblowers who work for the state.

In an interview with Transparency International EU, she discussed the personal challenges of being a whistleblower and risking a career at such a young age:

“I didn’t fear for my life, but maybe for more subtle problems with my career, my family etc. The government’s reaction was that we’re attacking Slovakia’s EU Council Presidency. That’s absurd. On the other hand, the public responded very positively -- students started petitions, we received countless messages of support. I even received several job offers.

It just happened at this age and this time of my life. I don’t question why now. It was time to stand up for what I believe.”

Details from the story:

  • On November 17, Slovaks are celebrating the Fight for Freedom and Democracy Day. On this day, the Aliancia Fair-play announces the laureates of the White Crow Prize for bravery and civil activism.
  • This year, the prize was awarded to Štefan Straka, who has spent a decade teaching ecological farming to the Roma; Erik Baláž, an environmentalist; Zuzana Hlávkova and Pavol Szalai.
  • Zuzana Hlávková is accused of defamation by Zuzana Ťapáková, who helped to prepare the Slovak Presidency at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
Is something happening in your country that Newsmavens should cover?
Zuzanna Ziomecka
Zuzanna Ziomecka EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lea Berriault-Jauvin
Lea Berriault Managing Editor
Jessica Sirotin
Jessica Sirotin EDITOR
Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko EDITOR
Gazeta Wyborcza, Agora SA Czerska 8/10 00-732, Warsaw Poland
The e-mail addresses provided above are not intended for recruitment purposes. Messages concerning recruitment will be deleted immediately. Your personal data provided as part of your correspondence with Zuzanna,Lea, Jessica and Ada will be processed for the purpose of resolving the issue you contacted us about. The data provided in your email is controlled by Agora S.A. with its registered office in Warsaw Czerska 8/10 Street (00-732). You can find more information about the processing and protection of your personal data at